Indian Themes on Foreign Stamps:Mauritius

Indian Immigration 1835

mauritius indian immigration stampIt was in 1834 that labourers were introduced under a private importation scheme which lasted until 1839. In August 1834, a batch of 39 free labourers on board the Sarah from Bombay arrived in the colony. On 9 September 1834, G. C. Arbuthnot, representative of Hunter Arbuthnot & Co. of Mauritius, signed a five-year contract with 36 Hill Coolies , before the Chief Magistrate, D. McFarlan at the Calcutta Police Office. Their monthly salary was five rupees and they received six months’ pay in advance. One rupee was retained for the passage. Food and clothing were provided according to a fixed scale. The Chief Magistrate read and explained the content of the contract to the coolies, with the help of an interpreter. On approval of the agreement, the recruits then affixed their thumb marks on the contract. On 15 September, these 36 indentured labourers embarked on board the Atlas which reached the colony on Sunday 2 November 1834. Permission for their landing was granted on Monday 3 November and on the following day, they set foot on Mauritian soil where they went to work at the ‘Antoinette’ sugar estate.

From 1834 to 1910, Indian Immigrants originated from the Presidencies of Bengal, Madras and Bombay. Before 1843, labourers recruited under private initiatives (1826-1839) came mainly from Cochin, Colombo, Madras, Pondicherry, Calcutta and its periphery. From 1842 to 1910, numerous factors influenced the choice of regions from where recruitment was to take place. Calcutta became the principal port of embarkation of indentured labourers to Mauritius because of existing commercial links with the colony. Ships sailing between Calcutta and Mauritius also benefited from reduced freight cost. Furthermore, the Calcutta Agency at Bhowanipore was more effective in collecting and dispatching the required number of recruits. Bihar became a large labour supply region by the mid 19th century as a result of the severe socio-economic upheavals provoked by the British policies such as the revenue and land settlements, heavy taxation and the Money lenders Regulation Act. Conditions worsened with harvest failures due to droughts and famine which forced the popualtion to resort to emigration. Labourers were sought from the specific regions of North Western provinces, Oudh and Central Bengal.

South India constituted another important source of labour given that recruits were perceived as good workers and as being of sound constitution. They also suffered from lower mortality rates during the voyage. Moreover, the journey to Mauritius which was shorter proved advantageous to planters whose contingents of workers reached the colony in the expected time.

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